Term Limits, Congress, and War in Iraq

So, I was reading this on Salon today, and I came across this paragraph:

Of course it would be “prudent” to get Congressional approval. Moreover, I would say that it would be political suicide not to do so. What troubles me more is the first sentence there.

If the Bush Administration’s position is truly that the 1990 Congressional support for the Gulf War gives the current administration Congressional support now, 12 years later… well, isn’t that just an abuse of our electoral system, particularly as regards term limits?

This is an honest question… I haven’t made a sure conclusion yet, but I have some thoughts on the subject, and I welcome other thoughts as well.

With Congressional elections every two years, this means we have had 5 House elections of lawmakers since the Gulf War, and, I believe, 2 Senatorial elections in the same time. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that all the members of Congress have turned over, but many of them have.

Here are the questions I have.

How many of our current lawmakers were installed in Congress for the 1990 Gulf War approval vote?

How many have since been replaced?

How many of our current lawmakers who voted for the 1990 Gulf War would vote against attacking Iraq today?

And the reverse of that: How many of our current lawmakers who voted against the Gulf War would vote for attacking Iraq today?

These factual questions (which I could probably answer myself, but I’m frankly not sure where to start looking) lead me to ideological ones.

Isn’t the purpose of term limits on our elected officials to give a changing national/political climate reflection in our representation?

If term limits and turnover do not matter after 12 years, then is there a statute of limitations that specifies when a new Congressional vote is mandated?

Is the Bush administration overlooking the significance of term limits in its stated position on seeking Congress’ blessing in this case?

Is the Bush administration looking to circumvent appropriate political process in its considerations of waging war against Iraq? If so, why?

My feeling on these questions is that term limits are a key issue here. The fact that there has been significant (to my knowledge) turrnover in Congress in the last decade invalidates the 1990 Congressional support of the Gulf War, at least on ideological terms. The law may well say differently, and if so, I’d be interested to hear what it says. However, I do feel that the Bush Administration is ignoring this key point of term limits and the turnover in Congress in order to make their agenda in Iraq more expedient. Whether this is because they feel a genuine threat or because of domestic, political reasons I do not know.

My early conclusion is that the Bush Administration position is invalid: The membership of Congress has changed significantly enough that a new vote is called for in the case of war against Iraq in order to determine Congressional support. This is more of an ideological conclusion at this point, as I do not have numbers to back it up yet. Perhaps, if someone does not have these numbers ready, someone could point me in the direction of where I might look to find them. I have found several listings of current representatives, for example, but none that include when their terms began (at least, not without having to go through all 535 of them individually).

What I’m thinking, in the end, is that the fact of Congressional term limits and the time that has passed since the Gulf War invalidates the Bush Administration position about seeking Congressional approval for a war in Iraq, and necessitates that they seek such approval (by a vote) again before they can officially declare war against Iraq. I’m wondering if others agree, or if not, what facts contradict this line of thought. My mind remains open on the subject.

I think you may be making an error here. Term limits limit the number of terms that a person can serve in office, not how long a piece of legislation or a resolution is good for. There being no term limits for either house of Congress, I think that TL doesn’t apply here.

It is definitely worth considering whether or not the original resolution by Congress in 90-91 covers the present situation. One would, I imagine, have to look at the wording of the resolution. Is there a time limit, or some other “ending” clause? Is today’s situation really just a continuation of the previous situation. Those are the questions that need to be answered.

Zev Steinhardt

Good call. :smack: I misplaced my terminology. tries to scratch out “term limits” in OP – didn’t work

I guess my question really was how valid the 1990 resolution is now, when some of the members of Congress who voted on that resolution have been replaced and others may have a different take on it in the intervening time.

Yes, answers to those questions would go a long way to address the concerns I have. Thanks…

The operative principle is that an act of Congress does not expire with the expiration of that Congress (unlike unfinished business of the Congress, which does expire). Thus, if Congress passed a resolution 100 years ago, the resolution is still valid unless there was language in the resolution saying that it expired at some point. So, unless the original resolution stated that it was valid for only a specific time or set of circumstances, it may indeed still be valid.

Does anyone have the original resolution?

Zev Steinhardt

I think the OP may be confusing the question. The present Bush administration may simply be saying that they would like the present Congress to issue a current resolution similar to the one Congress passed in 1990-91, and not that it is stretching the old resolution to re-use presently.

This is the text of the Persian Gulf Resolution but it won’t answer the question. The resolution cites to a whole bunch of UN actions relative to the situation. I would assume those UN actions were based on the situation that then existed. You would have to research those before it could be decided whether or not Congress’ resolution covered the present situation. And, of course, I don’t know that anyone has formally laid out before the Congress or anyone else exactly what the “present situation” is. There is a lot of talk but whether or not what GW claims now is included in the authority of the previous resolution is anyones guess.

His lawyers say that the authority still is there. Gee, what a surprise!